Had the mayor shouted his resignation over a bullhorn, or had a high-speed chase led America’s most wanted through our parking lot, we still might not have risen from our seats. By golly, six of the newsroom’s most senior members — with well over 100 years of journalism experience between them — were debating pressing matters.
Like whether the “Presented” in the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing should be capitalized or left lower case.
Or if we’ll relax our rigid insistence that the Hilton Head Island High School Visual and Performing Arts Center not be referred to as the “VPAC” in our newspaper, even though a lot of other people use the acronym.
Or whether “town manager” is a job description or an honorific title.
The uninitiated surely find it silly that grown adults would debate to death (if not to the death) whether the minuscule drop of ink that transforms a common into a semicolon should be there in meetings listings. But ferocious arguments over such minutiae serve our regular readers, whether the readers realize it or not.
For by presenting words and phrases consistently and standardizing our use of fonts and layout devices, readers can more quickly understand our meaning and negotiate our pages. And really, isn’t that what we all want — to move quickly through the news so we can get back to Angry Birds?
So if you’re wondering what was decided when we met to update The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette stylebook for the first time in a little more than two years, we decreed that “Presented” should indeed be capitalized, we’re sticking with The Associated Press proscription against acronyms and that “town manager” (along with school superintendent and county administrator) is a job description and therefore not to be upper case, even when preceding a name.
We do a major update of our stylebook every one to two years, with tweaks in between to address developments that just can’t wait that long. The point of the exercise is not to be pedantic, but to make our communication clearer, although admittedly it brings out the curmudgeon in people who care about this kind of stuff, myself included. (I’m still smarting from my defeat in the this year’s epic Battle of the Meetings Listings Semicolons, destined to become part of newsroom lore.)
Here are some highlights from this year’s update:
• We decided that the term “Old Town Bluffton” has not only entered the locals’ common parlance; it is a distinct and definable geographic place. As such, it should be considered a proper noun.
• We’re sticking with our lower-case designations for all but one local municipal government. That’s because “city” and “town” aren’t included in most of their formal, incorporated names. The exception is the Town of Hilton Head Island. For consistency’s sake, we considered making them all upper case, but that seemed a bit high falutin’, and we considered making them all lower case, but that seemed dismissive of Hilton Head’s careful inclusion of “Town” in its articles of incorporation.
So we stuck with what we’ve been using.
• We also stuck with previous style with regard to the term “greater Bluffton” — that is to say, the unincorporated area of southern Beaufort County east of Pinckney Colony Road. This was up for consideration again mostly because we haven’t been as consistent with our use of the term as we should be, particularly when referring to areas west of S.C. 170, near Sun City Hilton Head. We pledge to do better.
• The prominence of the Internet demands additions to the stylebook, as well. We just set rules for the use of shortened URLs in print, as a device to avoid unwieldy Web addresses, particularly those apt to produce bad line breaks and the resultant hyphens that might confuse readers. We also set style for the “related content” listing at the end of most of our stories, and for the reference to reporters’ Twitter accounts.
Is the tingle creeping up your leg with all of this talk of grammar, punctuation and style?
We understand if it’s not and will be content if we simply move you through our content briskly and with clarity.